As our children head back to the classroom there are a few things that are different from past school year beginnings. Thanks to COVID-19, little is back to fully normal — whatever normal is these days. Middle and high school students should have an easier time of it if they have been vaccinated. And that’s a big “if.” Statewide, as of the middle of July, only 39 percent of the state’s population had been fully vaccinated, but let’s take a closer look at Middle Georgia. In Houston County, only 33 percent of the population had been fully vaccinated as of July 15. In the Houston County African American community, the figure is 32.1 percent. In the 12-14 age demographic, only 7.3 percent have had at least one dose of the vaccine; 15-19 years, 25.2 percent. The figures aren’t any better in Macon-Bibb County where only 33 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated and only 5.8 percent of the 12-14 age group. In the 15-19 demographic, it’s 18.9 percent. In the African American community, it’s 28.7 percent. Peach County is also lagging with 34 percent fully vaccinated, but in the 12-14 age group, only 4.8 percent have had at least one shot of the vaccine and only 11.6 percent in the 15-19 age group and 31.7 in the black community.
What the statistics mean is simple. As children go back to school precautions need to be made at the district, school and home levels. While most districts will require masks on school buses, whether masks will be required in school buildings is still being decided, but parents can make the decision for their children, particularly for elementary-aged students who have not been approved for the vaccine. When possible, social distancing should be practiced, and I would tell my children to always wear a mask and continue to wash their hands often. Some statistics we should all remember, particularly those who are unvaccinated for one reason or another.
• In May and June, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 99 percent of deaths by COVID, occurred to unvaccinated
• The Delta variant is more contagious; however, the severity of the disease remains the same
Lesson. If you haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated and vaccinate your children who are 12 or older. Parents, stay abreast of school
guidelines that are likely to change throughout the school year. Observe your children, ask them questions about how they are feeling, and if you feel concerned take them to a healthcare professional. Do not send them to school. Hopefully, all teachers and school personnel will be
vaccinated by the time the schoolhouse doors open.
There are other things parents need to be aware of as the school year begins. During lockdowns, family schedules got discombobulated. Match
that with the summer and many children will have to get back in the groove of waking up early and heading to school. It’s hard to do that if they have been up half the night playing video games or on their phones. Parents should set an agreed upon bedtime — and harbor all electronic devices outside of the child’s reach until morning. Young growing bodies need more sleep, not less. I wrote the following sentences in 2016, and they are still true today. “School teachers are not miracle workers. Parents, if you haven’t taught your child basic manners, courtesy, behavior and hygiene, that’s on you. Teachers can only reinforce lessons already learned. The same goes on the academic side.” Follow your child’s progress. Become the education partner with your child’s teachers. Your child’s teachers should be able to reach you anytime — and know that you’ll respond.
This might be a no brainer but take your children to the library. Check out books that interest them. Help them become proficient readers. If your child hasn’t learned to read proficiently by the third grade, get help. The saying, “From kindergarten to third grade a child is learning to read, past that, the child is reading to learn,” remains true.
Make it a point to visit your child’s classroom. That may prove difficult due to COVID restrictions but try. It’s unfortunate, teachers rarely see
parents at school except when responding to problems. If a teacher says your child did something, the probability that your child did exactly what the teacher said he or she did is as close to 100 percent as you can get. Teachers don’t have the time or inclination to “pick” on your child.
That said, parents are a child’s advocate in chief. If something is amiss at school, from the teacher to the principal to the janitor, they shouldn’t be bashful, but follow the chain of command. Speak with the principal first — and if necessary — the superintendent. He may refer you to someone else, but rest assured, he’s the man.
And finally, no matter your child’s age, it is important that you stay involved in every aspect of their education. At no point can you afford to check out and leave it to the educators. They depend on you to help them do their jobs effectively. In fact, educators can’t do it without you.
Written by Charles Richardson